My grandpa passed away on a Saturday in May.
He had grown sick quickly
and we had all been in town for almost a week.
We all received that phone call
and headed to St. Louis
to sit by his bedside,
and hold his hands
and kiss his face.
To wipe his closed eyes with a cool cloth.
We all had a moment alone with him
I love you.
My grandma came to the hospital during the final few days,
transported from her nursing home,
accompanied by her rabbi.
She sat in her wheelchair, by his bedside, and wept.
She held his hand
and in-between her tears said,
“That’s my man, can you believe that’s my man laying there?”
The day my grandpa passed away
all the cousins
went to be with my grandma.
We noticed that sitting on her table
there was a Valentine’s Day card
written in my grandpa’s shaky script.
Valentine’s for 71 years. Wow!!
Love is the riskiest, craziest, juiciest thing out there.
To give your heart to someone
and know that at some point, it might be broken.
Even after 71 years.
Five weeks after my grandpa passed away,
my grandma followed.
and my cousin-in-laws
and friends through generations
were the pallbearers at both funerals.
These men accompanied both of my grandparents on that final walk.
And watching them honor my grandma and grandpa in that way
was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
I know that in my family,
we bury our own.
Physically filling each grave with dirt.
It’s the final thing we can do for our people.
Each shovel of earth saying
I know that the day of my grandma’s funeral,
my sister went into labor,
most likely because my no-nonsense grandma was up there
and told that sweet baby it was time to get going.
That we needed her.
I know that the morning my niece was born,
I was cuddled up next to my cousin
that the baby was coming,
and we needed to get to the hospital to greet her.
I know that the first time I saw my niece, I cried.
For I loved that girl before she born.
I know that when your heart is open to love,
it can break,
and at first, it feels like this grief is the only return on our investment.
The only proof that we loved.
But I’ve learned that isn’t true.
Grief isn’t the only thing we are left with.
We are left with bigger hearts
and crazy stories.
We are left with cousins
We are left with Valentine’s Day cards that remind us
that love can outlive lifetimes.
Our grief reminds us
that real love holds the power to create
to build a family.
Our grief reminds us that if we allow it
our hearts can be filled over and over again.
Love is anything but glossy.
It isn’t always rom-com,
OMG, super cute,
all hearts and rainbows.
In fact, love is the messiest thing I know.
At times, it will leave us stumbling and sick
and other times,
well other times,
we will hold our baby niece
or share a first kiss
or paint our grandma’s fingernails
and know that there’s nowhere else in the world we need to be.
My grandparents got to love BIG for 71 years.
And while their bodies are gone,
it is their love that remains.
It is the family they built.
The stories they told.
The values they engrained in us.
This is the return on their investment.
It is each other that we are left with.
This is how their love lives on.